December has unfurled its crimson pages, and once again I find that Christmas has overtaken me. It’s arrived. That day of all days.
It’s been full, this month of preparation. Preparing the house, the gifts, the feasting. Preparing the gatherings and the revelings. Preparing to honor and bless, to delight and bring joy.
Preparing room in my soul for the birthing of the Christ-child.
Make ready the way of the Lord.
But in all the readying, my heart has been stretched. It has swelled with the discomfort of unanswered questions, each hanging discordant like an unsightly ornament, jarring and disconcerting. December has been filled with more than joy’s anticipation; it has been heavily rounded with pain. And I have wrestled, watching, hurting.
A beloved mother-in-love. Perching on the edge of a rumpled hospital bed, stroking a cherished hand: I witness, helpless, as the fog of dementia not only enshrouds an unwanted encounter with a sterile knife, but also consumes the countless experiences that comprise a life.
An honored grandmother. Attending hard to the heart on the other end of the line: I listen, grieving, as the march of a century of days exacts its heartless toll on a mind once rich with purpose, still rich with legacy. We grieve together the loss of her independence, the loss of so much.
A precious child. Cupping the blossoming face of a treasured young one: I mourn, aching, as disappointed dreams and failure feelings rain unchecked down those cheeks.
A dear friend. Locking eyes with a wavering, uncertain companion: I plead, passionate, as her empty loneliness erodes at the truth, causing once immovable convictions to crumble.
It can, at times, be too much for the heart to hold: this tumbled-down, mixed-up jumble of joy and pain, celebration and grieving. And in the push towards making ready, I can feel as though I’ve arrived at dead-end, completely stymied by the unexpected sock of weighty grief.
The lights flicker just a bit. Things feel dim. Harried. Hurting.
However, I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend. Too many expectations, too many hearts hang on my willingness to push through and make this thing happen. The oftentimes frenetic traditions of Christmas are highly anticipated by my clan, and time is a luxury I don’t possess in the press towards preparation.
So the weights that hang from my heart are bundled into a pack and shifted behind. Press forward. Move on.
Silent Night. Holy Night.
All is calm. All is bright.
My spirit stirs.
Like those first, fluttering kicks of a tiny babe wrapped in its momma’s womb, the Spirit of Emmanuel, God With Me, whispers insistently.
Make ready. Make room.
I have come.
It’s the dark night of our souls, and He has arrived, God With Us.
And in the silence of this Holy Night of nights, He speaks, tender, low:
I come with Shalom, with peace. All is calm.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:27).”
I blaze forth the Light, illuminating your darkness. All is bright.
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life (John 8:12).”
Son of God, love’s pure light.
Radiant beams from thy holy face, with the dawn of redeeming grace.
Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.
It’s Christmas, and I am desperate for HIM, the Word made flesh.
Here I am, Lord, at Thy birth. Here I am, Emmanuel. Birth Yourself in me. Be found in me so radiantly that all else is swallowed in your goodness-glory. Let Your peace so rule in my care-worn heart that I would have Your mind, that my atmosphere would be God-breathed and Shalom saturated.
I step back and lean into rest, into the bright calm of His heart. Those pain-wrapped questions, that heavy bundle – it’s enfolded in the arms of the Great I AM. The One who became flesh so that He might take it all upon Himself. I sigh deep and let go and quietly rejoice.
The last remaining preparation has been made; I am finally ready.
Joy has come.
Photo by Jarren Nesbitt